One of the saddest words I think I ever learned is “until.”
Last week I sat on an airplane, one row behind a father and his two sons, ages 5 and 4, and listened to their excited chatter. Neither of the boys had ever been on a plane before and they couldn’t wait for this lumbering giant to reach the end of the runway and whisper up and off the ground. Both of them squealed in tandem at the slight lift under the plane’s wheels and the younger one hollered, “We’re flying!” as his dad shushed him and looked around apologetically to everyone else on board.
Across the aisle from me was a young couple with a nine-month old. The baby’s mother sat down, handed the little girl to her father and pulled out a giant container of disinfecting wipes. She apologized to the stranger (Bubba) sitting next to her as she swiped down every surface within reach of the baby – the armrests, seat belt buckles, backs of the seat in front of her, everyone’s trays (inside and out), the wall and window next to them. I smiled and closed my eyes, imagining the days filled with splashing in the pool, digging in the sand, slathering sunscreen on over and over and trying to keep her hat on. I remembered those days of fighting for naps in a hotel room and falling in to bed at night, the TV too low for us to even hear it lest we wake our kids up, too tired for sex, the bathtub full of grit and wet swimsuits.
I was always waiting “until”
my kids were old enough to modulate their own voices for the comfort of others around them
they could bathe themselves and fall asleep without rocking or pleading
the girls could entertain themselves on an airplane
Listening to those squeals of joy I realized how much “until” kept me from the now, stunted the joy of today, gave me hope for “until” but didn’t let me revel in the moment.
“Until” is never satisfied, never still, never accepting or grateful or full of equanimity.
I can so clearly remember the myriad times I thought to myself, “I can’t wait until…” as I looked at other families longingly. I know I didn’t speed up time, but I do know that I missed fully appreciating some of the moments of exploration and the dawning of new understandings as they happened for my girls because I was focused on getting past this stage (whatever it was).
Maybe after today I can hear myself thinking those words and stop. Maybe I can breathe instead and look around – take stock of where I am and how grateful I am to be here. Now.